I turned over on the bed, it creaked. I was grasping my stomach, it hurt like hell since dinner. I hadn’t been forced to eat that much food since Christmas time when I was a child. Even so, I had never been force fed so much pork fat.
There was pork fat, called Salo, in everything.
Salo is raw pork fat. You kill the pig, you clean it, and then you cut off the fat. Then, slice it and eat it. You can eat it plain, or you can chop it up and put it on sliced bread. You can add onions, put it in a frying pan and then eat it on sliced bread. You can chop it up and add it to scrambled eggs. You can also put it in soup.
Basically, I had it every which way it could be had tonight. And I felt like I was about to reject it orally at any moment. I groaned.
I heard creaks along the staircase. Someone was coming upstairs. More creaks on the floorboard, were they coming this way? There was a pause, and what sounded like whispers. The door to my room didn’t fully close because the doors weren’t both cut to the same size and so they wouldn’t fit into each other in order to shut. This meant that I could hear everything that went on in the house.
Another stab of pain ripped through my insides and the nausea threatened to overtake me. Whoever was standing in the hallway would have to move quickly if I grew any more nauseas. I got into fetal position, hoping it would halt the pain. My arms gripped my knees tight to my chest and I took deep breathes, fighting the metallic taste in my mouth that meant I was ready to hurl. At this point, the pain was so intense that I stopped hearing creaking of any kind and I momentarily forgot about whoever was in the hallway and what they were doing there. I just took deep breathes and repeated the mantra in my mind, “Don’t vomit. Don’t vomit. Don’t vomit.”
And then the light went on with a flash. Four figures rushed into my room. One carried a pan of water.
Splash! One time. Splash! Two times. And then a third splash of water was hurled at my face by the eldest son. I gasped with each crash of icy water.
Before I could register the intrusion- the water, the light- the son kissed my forehead and blew off to one side. I can’t recall which side. He did it again, and then a third time.
“Now lift your shirt and wipe your face downwards. Like this.” The deep, croaking voice of the woman said to me as she demonstrated lifting her shirt and wiping her face from top to bottom. Her large belly protruded from beneath her shirt as she lifted it.
I looked around, aghast. The woman, the man, the girl and the eldest son stood around me, watching in earnest. I shook my head.
I was not about to lift my pajama shirt, which was not long enough for me to lift without exposing my entire torso, in front of this family of onlookers.
“I will turn off the light and you wipe.” The mother said and shut off the light, darkness filling the room as quickly as the light had. I hurriedly wiped my face with my sleeve. “Ok” I said.
The light came on again and the man and the girl left the room. The mother peered into my face.
“Eh?? You feel better? Your stomach still hurts??” I nodded, although the shock of everything must have triggered the adrenaline in my system because the pain was dulled a bit, less sharp than it was before.
Not knowing whether my nod was because I felt better or because my stomach still hurt the woman shuffled purposefully out of the room.
“What-in-God’s-name-was-that?” I was furious.
“That was Holy water. At church today there was an old woman, do you remember?” I just stared, there were many, many old women at the Easter church service.
“Well she was looking at you really badly. I could tell. She was cursing you. It is because you look like a gypsy and old ladies don’t like this. So she cursed you. Mama was saying we should break the curse with the Holy water and your stomach would stop hurting.”
That, too, was the only explanation I ever got.
Alone again in the room, light turned off and with no creaking to indicate intruders, I decided that I won’t be going to Church service for Orthodox Easter in a few weeks.
After all, a girl can only withstand a certain number of gypsy curses per month.